The Legal Dance Between States and FERC in Pipeline Approvals

MDN has enthusiastically covered the story of Millennium Pipeline’s challenge of the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) refusal to (so far) grant a federal Clean Water Act stream crossing permit for a short, 7.8-mile pipeline from Millennium to natgas-fired electric plant currently under construction in Orange County, NY. States are given a year to respond to a request for such a permit, and the DEC was long past that date. So Millennium took the DEC to court–the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In June the court dismissed the lawsuit by Millennium, which at first blush may seem like a blow. But it was the reasoning and opinion of the judges in dismissing the case that will change everything in New York. The judges said there is no case because if, as Millennium says, the DEC is denying the water permits, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) itself has the power to jump back in and simply override NY DEC and issue the permits (see DC Court Tells Millennium FERC Can Override NY DEC Pipeline Delay). Millennium took the judge’s advice and filed a request with FERC to do just that (see Showdown: Millennium Asks FERC for Permission to Ignore NY DEC). We’re now waiting the outcome of that request. Actually, the DEC said it has until the end of this month, August, to deliver the permit–so perhaps they will do it to avoid losing their power. How does these matters get resolved between states and FERC? Why do the Appeals Courts get involved when there is a dispute? Does the state have more than just a rubber-stamp approval role when it comes to issuing stream crossing permits? A well-written article from an energy attorney explains the process (something we found very helpful in our own understanding of how these things work)…

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